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Tiger's tumble causes jumble

Woods at 5 over as 3 surprise names lead Open.


© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 16, 2001

TULSA, Okla. -- He's on the cover of Newsweek and TV Guide, the subject of an ESPN TV special next week, the most talked about golfer any time, anywhere. But Tiger Woods no longer merits the U.S. Open marquee.

A threesome of golfers listed on the leaderboard as J. Lewis, M. Brooks and R. Goosen shared the dulled spotlight Friday, and for all their anonymity, they might as well go by Moe, Larry and Curly.

That's J.L. Lewis, not Jerry; Mark Brooks, not Mel. And Mr. Goosen, how do you spell your first name again? Retief.

Tiger Woods is nine shots behind these guys?

A fifth consecutive major championship, all but conceded to Woods on the eve of the 101st U.S. Open, is hardly a gimme putt anymore. Woods finished the weather-delayed first round with 74, then followed with 71, breaking a streak of 38 consecutive rounds at par or better.

For a time, Woods' 36-hole score of 145 at Southern Hills Country Club appeared to be in danger of missing the 36-hole cut. It certainly caused a mad dash to the record books. You might have to go back to Woods' appearance on the Mike Douglas Show as a 3-year-old prodigy to find the last time he was 5 over par.

"He's not playing the way he normally plays," said Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, who played with Woods during the first two rounds and beat him at a European tour event this year in Dubai. "That's the way golf is sometimes.

"There was a lot of pressure on him going in. And he just didn't get off to a good start. All of a sudden, it turned into a tough golf course for him as well. But he's not out of it. He's come from way back before. So don't count him out now."

Indeed, just last month, Woods trailed New Zealand's Michael Campbell by 10 strokes through 36 holes at the Deutsche Bank Classic in Germany, then shot 63-66 to win by four strokes. He trailed Ernie Els by eight strokes with 18 holes left at the 1998 Johnnie Walker Classic, forced a playoff and won. And last year at the AT&T National Pro-Am, Woods trailed Matt Gogel by seven strokes with seven holes to go and won.

The biggest difference, of course, is this is a U.S. Open venue, one that doesn't figure to offer a slew of birdie chances. Brooks and Lewis got hot on the front nine Friday, which gives Woods some consolation.

"It's a U.S. Open, and if you can play a good, solid round you can get yourself up on the leaderboard," said Woods, who was tied for 48th. "For example, what Brooks is doing out there. You shoot 6 under par, you're going to move up the board. That's what happens when you play a golf course that's set up this difficult. That's the beauty of it. You play a good, solid round, you're going to move up the board."

A year ago, Woods led the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by six shots through 36 holes. He also had 12 birdies. This year, he's made three birdies, with six bogeys and a double bogey. He's been all over the course, and if it weren't for a stellar short game, Woods would be on his way home. Through two rounds, he one-putted for par or bogey 13 times.

"We've come to expect so much out of him," said David Duval, whose 69 put him three behind the leaders and in position to win his first major championship. "No one will be surprised if he comes back to win the tournament this weekend."

A bigger surprise would be if any of the leaders held on to the title. Brooks, 40, won the 1996 PGA Championship a month before Woods turned pro. Since then, Woods has won 28 times -- Brooks has posted a grand total of eight top-10 finishes, with no victories. Lewis, 40, a former club pro, has one career PGA Tour victory and is playing in just his third U.S. Open. He has two top 20s this year, no top 10s. And then there is Goosen, 32, a South African who has four victories on the European tour.

Goosen emerged as the first-round leader, finishing off 4-under-par 66 Friday morning, then adding 70 in the afternoon for a total of 136, 4 under par. Lewis has two rounds in the 60s after a second straight 68. And Brooks, who birdied five of the first six holes, tied a U.S. Open second-round record with 64, the best score of the tournament.

The U.S. Open and major-championship record of 62 was within reach when Brooks made the turn at 5 under par, but he added just one more birdie.

Sergio Garcia shot 68 to finish at 138, two shots behind the leaders. Stewart Cink also was two back after 69. Duval (69) and Phil Mickelson (69) were tied at 139, 1 under. Hale Irwin, 56, who shot 67 in the first round and began the second a stroke out of the lead, had 75.

Bradenton's Paul Azinger rallied with 67 after an opening 74 and was at 141, 1 over par.

When play concluded Friday evening, 32 players were on the course and will complete their second round this morning.

Unlike last year's U.S. Open, where Woods romped to a 15-stroke victory, the weekend will offer competition rather than a coronation.

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